'Celebrate Vermillion' helps families ring in the new year Gretchen Burbach adds the final touches to a work of art on the face of 8-year-old Lea Miller New Year's Eve at the "Celebrate Vermillion" festivities held at USD's Coyote Student Center. by David Lias A special celebration to help Vermillion area families ring in the new year exceeded its planners' expectations last Thursday night.
"I think that possibly, yes, things turned out better than we thought they would," said John Mueller, associate director for operations at the Coyote Student Center (CSC) on the campus of The University of South Dakota. "We weren't setting our expectations very high given that this was the first year that we've tried this, and we were surprised and very pleased with the turnout."
"Celebrate Vermillion" began at 7:30 p.m. on New Year's Eve at the CSC. By the time it ended at 12:30 a.m. Friday morning, hundreds of children and parents had welcomed the arrival of 1999 by playing games, listening to stories, dancing and singing.
"I would estimate that we had between 400 and 500 people attend," Mueller said. "We were really happy with that."
Mueller came up with idea for "Celebrate Vermillion" approximately a year ago, and shared his thoughts with his boss, Rick Haught, director of the CSC.
"I guess my motivation for doing this was to see if we could come up with something, a special experience, that would help in getting families — adults and children — together," Mueller said.
In recent months, a planning committee put the final touches on the Dec. 31 event, designed to be a family-oriented, alcohol-free and tobacco-free celebration.
Shortly after the celebration's designated starting time, a steady stream of parents and children began arriving at the CSC.
They participated in a children's carnival with face painting, balloon animals, a fish pond, board games, bridge playing, bingo, miniature golf, karaoke, music and dancing with Randy Hammer, and a giant Twister game.
Young people were also entertained with movies, story telling and cookie decorating. Snacks and beverages were also served.
Proceeds from a small admission charge at the CSC door will be used to defray costs and build up a fund for future celebrations.
A special feature of the evening was a balloon drop held at 11 p.m. Children caught the balloons as they floated down.
"Inside each balloon were small letters that the children could match up for particular prizes," Mueller said.
The evening wouldn't have been such a success if it hadn't been for the fine work of the planning committee, he added. Committee members included Mueller and Haught, Les Parry, manager of USD Book and Supply, Bob Mayer, superintendent of Vermillion Public Schools, Tom Schaack, vice-president and manager of First National Bank, Genevieve Evans-Taylor, USD Student Activities, and Jill Tyler and her husband, Rev. Steve Miller of the United Church of Christ who is also president of the local Ministerial Association.
"The people on the committee did a great job," Mueller said. "And we had some great support from many volunteers."
Adding to the night's festivities was the financial support provided by the community and area businesses, he said.
"We had several businesses that donated prizes for the balloon drop," Mueller said.
He hopes that last Thursday's event marks the beginning of a traditional New Year's Eve celebration in Vermillion, meaning that local families will herald in the year 2000 in grand style approximately a year from now.
"We plan to make this a tradition in Vermillion," Mueller said. "We are pleased with how things went this year, and I think that we discovered that we need to expand the event to offer even more things for people to do."
Mueller said he is happy that so many people had a good time at the celebration. He noted that he, too, was caught up in the fun of the evening.
"The event was exactly what I hoped it would be," he said. "Several parents said they were very happy that we sponsored the activities. And I saw a lot of people I know in the community and had a chance to visit with them."